Apropos of David’s random thought, Jeffrey Sachs has an article in this month’s Scientific American in which he proposes four ways to reduce human population growth, and therefore reduce the burden on the Earth.

Sachs’ 4 goals are:

  1. Reduce infant mortality.
  2. Promote girls’ education and equality.
  3. Raise income and productivity on Third World farms.
  4. Promote family planning.

Notice something? All of them — except possibly the fourth, depending on one’s views — are things that would be good to do even if we entirely ignore their impacts on the environment. That is, these are things we should be doing out of simple human compassion, never mind environmental ethics. Is anyone here for more African babies dying? How about greater gender inequality? Anybody want to keep Third World farmers poor?

I find this to be pretty common for a lot “environmental” issues lately. As in, it would be good for the U.S. to begin phasing out coal for a number of reasons — it’s destroying the countryside, it’s harmful for workers, and the resulting air pollution unduly harms young children and the elderly. But oh God, don’t propose a carbon tax!

We, as a species, have a serious problem. There are a number of problems we have where the goals (if not how to get to them) are clear: eliminating coal is one of them. But rather than set that goal and work towards it, we’re bogged down in PR from incumbent industries and their loyal politicians.

I truly fear for our people, if we can’t make even the most simple of decisions without tears, screaming, and a huge dollop of acrimony.